During the re-plastering of the entire house phase, the old plaster on the chimney breast in what will be our dining room, had to come off. We came home from work one evening to see a beautiful wall of exposed brick work which our plasterer had cleverly realised we’d probably like and therefore hadn’t covered up.
Real, proper old bricks. You beauty!
The dream house we had planned out in our heads (while being fully aware that in reality might not all happen exactly as we had hoped) was starting to appear in real life.
An original feature of the house was back and meant we could explore the possibility of getting a wood burner as we no longer needed to block up the gap in the chimney breast where the old gas fire had been.
Images from The Holiday and other cosy Christmas films suddenly filled my senses. There was a cat curled up by the fire, impressive freshly baked cakes are placed on the dining table, fairy lights are hung everywhere, gingham t-towels without stains are hung on the aga door and no washing up is anywhere to be seen. I don’t even want a cat but there was one enjoying my dream sequence!
First things first though my friends, chimneys are serious business.
Hello Mr Chimney sweep, can you make sure our chimney is safe as houses please?
Why yes, would you like to come outside and see the brush coming out of the top of the chimney like in Mary Poppins?
Yes please. Oh look, it’s just like in Mary Poppins!
Sorry, your chimney is not safe to use unless it is lined. In the mean time though I can put a cover on it to stop the draft, oh and it will stop any birds and squirrels getting in.
BIRDS AND SQUIRRELS GETTING IN. Cover it up! cover it up!
I wasn’t up for any birds flying in and paying us a visit – can you imagine! I would scream, there would most likely be bird poo all over the place and who wants to live with a bird flying loose? The birds in my neighbourhood are not like the ones in pigeon street.
(funny bird related story for you when my mum & I accidentally ushered a pigeon into TX Maxx which proceeded to fly about EVERYWHERE while we made a quick exit. I also once befriended a carrier pigeon.
Maybe there will be time to tell those tales another day)
Fast-forward to several weeks later and we had a flue down our chimney, ready and waiting to be used and a dead cheap wood burner ordered.
Now we needed to tile the hearth and fit a register plate, a thing you put at the opening of the chimney.
How hard could that be?
All I need to do, says my husband in a builder-type voice, is clear this rubble out of the hearth and re-tile it. Simples.
I leave the room and return sometime later, suggesting that he might want to stop clearing the rubble as without realising, he’d dug down quite deep. Thankfully, we could put some of the rubble back and commence with tiling and he han’t quite reached the foundations and the house was still standing.
Not to go into too much detail, but this took longer than expected. Un-level floors that need levelling, noisy tile cutters were used and the dreaded call of “Can you pass me a *_____” was heard.
*insert name of a tool I’ve never heard off and try to find it quickly as this call is only ever made as a last resort so you know it must be bad. This can also be replaced with “can you hold this” or “can you shine the torch here” Here usually representing a tiny corner where only a pigeon would fit.
Hmm, maybe having a bird in the house isn’t such a bad idea after all.
I found this mini-project quite stressful as I had to role of being super-positive and encouraging when the register plate wouldn’t do what we needed it to do.
To celebrate the eventual success of tiles and register plate being in place we went out for dinner. Memorable because I had a stone in my risotto but I did get a free desert to make up for it.
Now we have a glorious wood burner fitted and can spend entire evenings just watching wood burn.
Don’t forget, if you get a wood burner that you will need wood that you can burn.
This means behaving like a meerkat near any skip or building project to see if there is wood to forage.
Top tips for wood retrieval
- Do ask permission to take wood if the skip is on someones drive way.
- Practise your chuckle brothers ‘to-me-to-you’ technique for when you find a good wood haul.
- Build up your arm muscles so you are prepared for when you have to carry wooden joists and beams that you’ll end up collecting on your way home from work (if you’ve ever had the “can you hold this” call then you’ll have had some practise already.)
Now you’ve done that, enjoy looking at your wood stacked attractively by the wood-burner next to your compulsory pokey fire tools and finally, snuggle up, drink your hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows on top and feel the glow….ahhhhhhh.